“Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12
I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to Charlottesville and especially to the alt-right event in my city (San Francisco) this weekend. The easy thing would be to be overcome by the evil demon of hatred for the lunatics that wave confederate flags, don riot gear, and carry weapons and shouting “Jews won’t replace us!” That’s what my lower nature wants to do, repay hate with hate, even though Jesus prohibits it. That’s the definition letting evil overcome me, i.e. come over me, seep inside me and ruin me.
Jesus said labeling people “raca” gets us into trouble with God and with one another (Matthew 5). It’s an Aramaic word that is probably best translated “empty” or “worthless.” Jon Carlson said, “When we insist that others are ‘raca,’ that others are empty and worthless because they’ve given themselves over to evil, we don’t defeat their evil. We actually endanger ourselves, feeding into the very destructive tendencies we wish to overthrow.” That’s what it means to be “overcome by evil,” when we take on their evil by hating them with the same hate with which they hate us. Continue reading →
If we have power, we must use it to help the powerless.
While John was preaching hot and heavy about what authentic repentance looks like, three groups of people approached him with the same operative question, “What should we do?” Okay, Messiah’s coming and God will judge the unrepentant. His ax is ready for swinging, so what do we do to escape its cut? John tailored his responses to each group a little differently.
“Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
These mercenary soldiers likely operated as the tax collectors’ muscle in their shakedowns of helpless fellow citizens. The Greek term that John used for “extort” means “to rob with violence.” They were so discontent with their take home pay that they resorted to leg-breaking for the IRS of the day. The preacher told them to live within their means with their state-issued paycheck and refrain from manipulating the powerless for extra cash.
I warn you not to dismiss John’s word just because you’re not in the Army or an enforcer for the mob! Like the soldiers, most of us have some power of some sort over someone, and how we steward that power says more about us than our possession of the power itself. How we use our power is reflective of have truly repentant we are. Continue reading →
How To Inherit The Earth: Submitting Ourselves to a Servant Savior by Scott Bessenecker, the Associate Director for Missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is simply the best book I’ve read in years on spiritual influence. I wish I had understood and practiced the things that he unpacks in this small book about the ways of Jesus, in my early days of walking with the Lord and launching out into a life of service.
If you want to be a better, smarter, and more respected spiritual leader, may I recommend any number of books besides this one! The list of books whose quality is, in my opinion, disclosed by an excessive use of words like “strategic” and “successful,” is endless. You can search for them under keywords like “super-sizing” or “turbo charging” your ministry. Pastors and ministry leaders gobble up books like those hoping to learn the Six Secrets, the Seven Habits, or Twenty-one Laws of great leadership. Continue reading →
We’ve covered a bunch of ground since we began our Good Samaritan talks. We’ve looked at how there is no more Ideal Samaritan than Jesus, how, in stark contrast to him we’re all pretty much Inadequate Samaritans with quite a replete repertoire of excuses for it, and then how we might get on a trajectory to become Improving Samaritans.
Finally, in light of all we’ve said, my question is, “Why we aren’t influencing our world toward our Savior Samaritan in a more powerful way?” Continue reading →
In two earlier posts I introduced the concept and context of the parable of the Good Samaritan. I talked about to be like Jesus is to be like the kind of “Ideal Samaritan” he was. Let me take this a little further and identify, like the law expert with whom he shared his parable, we make excuses for our lack of Christlikeness…
Christianity is like playing “Follow the Leader.” Jesus told us to “follow” him, which is a truckload more than just believing in him. It’s been a while since I’ve played the actual game, but I remember that if you want to stay in the game you have to do what the leader does. And you have to do it just the way s/he does it. Saying, “Well, I’m not going to do that, but I really do believe in you!” won’t get you to the next round. Believers-only sit down and watch followers stay in and play. Continue reading →
[As you can see, this is a multi-post theme and if you might find it helpful to begin at the beginning.]
If you were hoping I was winding down this topic, so so sorry, but some things have come to my attention since I started these rambling thoughts on how churches can and should be immeasurably more involved in the lives of the poor and the dregs of society. I believe that our churches should be much more like families for the left out and the left behind. Whether or not you agree with me, I hope you’ll read on and ask the Father if what I’m trying to say is true and if it has a bearing on how you are to live your life before him.
Outer Circle Churches don’t serve the poor so much as feast with them.
I was minding my own business, making every effort to bring this essay to a conclusion, when I had the misfortune of attending a church last Sunday wherein a guest speaker gave a message called “Feasting with the Poor.” He’s a young guy who almost unintentionally planted a church in San Diego by inviting the poor into their home – first for just one dinner, then another, and which eventually turned into a weekly feast among friends. His message from Luke 14 was remarkable, and since I can’t improve on it, I offer the audio to you. I hope you’ll give it a listen and see if the Spirit doesn’t speak as powerfully to you as he did (and continues to speak) to me. I warn you that it might well ruin you for either neglecting the poor altogether and/or relegating them to your favorite soup kitchen once a month. Continue reading →